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Bookmobile is Ben Torrence and Victor Couto, refugees from the defunct Seattle trio Lamplighter. Their former band's brilliant 2003 CD A Three Point Perspective revivified the nebulous zone where eclectic IDM meets post-rock. Keys, Bookmobile's debut disc, makes Lamplighter's death easier to take. Its 10 tracks creep down many seldom-trod roads with subtle inventiveness. From the tightly compressed, sinisterly machinelike funk of "Filthy Lover" to the tender, chiming microsound meditation of "Fettle," Bookmobile intelligently spans an impressive range of modes. It's rare to find American artists evoking blissed-out post-rock avatars Bark Psychosis ("Needrum"), Matmos' disorienting 21st-century folktronica japery ("Wilcaught"), and laptop/guitar drone-meister Fennesz ("Inyrwindow") all on one disc. Bookmobile's microchips squeak in tongues as the duo revel in digital dislocation and shape-shifting microsound. Let's hope these guys last longer than Lamplighter did.
Bookmobile's strengths are the same as those of many decent electronic acts: solid beats, a broad range of tones and samples and a welcome warmth. …blending disparate sounds into a palatable whole... Good skills and a good resume: these guys are pros. What makes Keys stand out is the breadth of its stylistic mission -- ambient wallpaper shares disc space with dance music and demanding, highbrow tracks alike. Club-footed beats mingle with stiletto-heeled clicks ("Circuits and Clay"), and Coney Island dog-walkers roam creaky boardwalks in search of fortune and booty ("Track-and-Field"). "Filthy Lover" sounds like a digital giant stomping on digital detritus, kicking up bits and wreckage with each reverberating step. "Inyrwindow" could back a noir cable series sometime in your near future, and "HighLowHeart" coaxes some tenderness from otherwise indifferent electrons. … Bookmobile refuses to take sides, pursuing whatever sounds and structures are satisfying, while still refusing to cater to a lowest common denominator audience. But if Keys is not a Grand Musical Statement and it's not a series of craven "hits", what can it be? Can there be such a beast and can it be successful? Music that's smart and light-hearted is a tough sell. It can remind us of everything that's wrong with intellectual conversations at parties: the context is all wrong, and what we end up remembering is the guy who got his pants stuck in the microwave. But if it's a tough sell, it's even tougher to achieve, and Keys succeeds because it behaves like a series of short stories -- each well-constructed and finished, each with its own perspective, each reliably gratifying. Anyone who consumes music for simple pleasure as well as intellectual refinement and/or Dionysian gymnastics will find much to enjoy here.
- Evanston Wade
Show Listing - February 24, 2005
Two of Seattle's preeminent electronic duos duel tonight in the Jewelbox's cozy confines. Bookmobile (Ben Torrence and Victor Couto) and Hakea (Matts Carthum and Turpin) are doing the thankless work of rejuvenating IDM (Intelligent Digital Music) from its decrepit state. They understand IDM is so nebulous a genre, it can encompass vast musical territory. This they do with casual brilliance. Bookmobile lean more toward minimalism, funk, and atomized guitarscapes while Hakea bust more old-school, synth-wizard moves, but it all sounds as fresh as a G5.
Lost At Sea
Individuals that manage to expand beyond their comfort zone, longingly gazing just over the matted metal fence in their backyard, and finally have the courage to unlatch the gate and step away into another world have my endless respect… primarily because I'm a coward. Why leave your bread and butter when you might not like the taste of peanut butter and jelly?
Keys is a difficult disc to describe, primarily because it falls into the realm of ambient/intelligent dance music (IDM) - genres that often supplement the lack of an explanation as explanation, sort of like the dreaded "alternative" tag. Using layering, washes, glitch, clicks and noise, Bookmobile creates a landscape of ambience that dances between sparse and pleasant arrangements to choppy noise works, often mingling the two ideas. On "Circuits and Clay," a heavy bass line gives way to clicks and scratches, as distant keyboard dissonance prefaces actual structure. "Track and Field," the very next track, compiles a variety of noises seemingly looped arbitrarily. On "01" and "Wilcaught," Bookmobile display an uppity side, with two tracks where urgency seems to play a role, where the track in-between, "Inyrwindow," creates a soundscape of tunneling noise, continually rising. Keys, as a whole, could be the soundtrack to a computer's life, the tracks mirroring the moods of the CPU's beginning and end, as it makes its way through the haze and expanse to computer utopia. It's a decidedly synthetic journey, but gentle at times, and not altogether without merit.
- David Spain
Bleep, bleep, blurp and bleep. That is the sound of the electronic noodling that characterizes this generally irritating CD. Occasionally, the duo will do something really smooth and melodic, like the languid keyboard lines of "Circuits and Clay" only to force in the video game detritus like some station bleeding in that cannot be tuned out.
Show Listing - April 24, 2004
Son Of Rose, Bookmobile
Two of my favorite local microsound/IDM artists enliven No Tomorrow's vaunted weekly dissemination of dark, distorted sonic viruses. Son of Rose uses the PowerBook to paint meticulous, pointillist tableaux of glitch and drone. Crafty duo Bookmobile ramble all over the electronic map, hitting many choice landmarks with unerring finesse. These producers are future Mutek material, straight up.
Indie Workshop .com
Bookmobile's first record "Keys" is a little on the simple side, sparse might be another good term for it. But everything it reaches for, it grabs easily. It is too sparse to be dance music but too beat-driven for sound collage. It is of two minds, and two heads end up being more interesting than one. From listening to this debut record, Bookmobile seems like two smart gentlemen, sitting down at their laptops, and creating thin layers of icy instrumentals, almost working like a tag team at times. Nothing is done too often or layered on too thickly, which is nice and shows their sense of control and taste towards this growing genre.
It would be easy to dismiss this record, if the styles didn't change effortlessly from song to song. Beginning with an almost Squarepusher/Oval glitch-up on the opening track, it quickly to a more confident techno-beat, but with the added noise sparks going on. Like a biomechanical beast, it just keeps growing and changing its form, little by little. By the fourth track, "Needrums", Bookmobile adds deep, lush tones to its palette, sounding a little like Fourtet (only a little, mind you. These guys are good, but not that good). "Inyrwindow" also comes close enough to ethereal bliss to make me really like this record, blips and pops and all.
In the end, this record sounds more cohesive than I have given it credit for. It isn't just a bunch of songs that sound remotely like someone else. It is a wide expanse of talents that are linked together and brought to the music by this pair of promising electronic artists.
They must be proud parents.
Show Review January 15, 2005
…Next up for the evening was the laptop duo Bookmobile from Seattle. Their atmosphere was thick but beautiful and never very heavy. Maybe something more like raindrops than ocean waves. The night was getting later and the crowd had thinned since General Studies stopped, but my eyelids never grew heavy and I didn't stir from my seat, intently positioned in front of the Powerbooks. Not like there was anything to see, you understand. Bookmobile's faces were lit from their screens and were absorbed in the creation at hand, but unlike guitar or drums, laptop musicians reveal nothing to me in body movements or finger positioning. And still, I never got bored. The beats were an amalgamation of acoustic samples and percussive popcorn-like explosions. At moments I could almost hear bacon sizzling or Alka-Seltzer dissolving. Maybe I was just hungry, but I recommend them regardless.